Look Who's Back
Cover art for Er ist wieder da
Look Who's Back (German: Er ist wieder da, pronounced [ʔeːɐ̯ ʔɪst ˈviːdɐ daː]; translation: "He is there again") is a bestselling German satirical novel about Adolf Hitler by Timur Vermes, published in 2012 by Eichborn Verlag. The novel was adapted into a German movie of the same name, which was released in 2015.
In the year 2011, Adolf Hitler wakes up in a vacant lot in Berlin which appears to be the location of the garden outside the bunker where he was burned, with no knowledge of anything that happened following his death in 1945. Homeless and destitute, he interprets everything he sees and experiences in 2011 from a Nazi perspective — for instance, he assumes that Turks in Germany are an indicator of Karl Dönitz having persuaded Turkey to join the Axis, and thinks that Wikipedia is named for Wikinger (“Vikings”). Although everyone recognizes him, nobody believes that he is Hitler; instead, they think he is either a comedian or a method actor. He appears on a variety television show called Whoa, dude!, going off-script to broadcast his views. Videos of his angry rants become hugely successful on YouTube, and he achieves modern celebrity status as a performer. The newspaper Bild tries to take him down, but is sued into praising him. He is beaten up by far-right extremists who think he is mocking the memory of Hitler, unaware that he is the genuine article. In the end, he uses his popularity to re-enter politics.
The book was priced at €19.33, a deliberate reference to Hitler's ascent to power in that year. By March 2014 it had sold 1.4 million copies in Germany. The book has been translated into 41 languages. An English-language translation, Look Who's Back, translated by Jamie Bulloch, was published in April 2014 by MacLehose Press. It was longlisted for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the 2016 IMPAC award.
The original audiobook version is read by comedian Christoph Maria Herbst and by May 2014 had sold over 520,000 copies. Herbst had played the Hitler-based character of Alfons Hatler in the two comedy films Der Wixxer (2004) and Neues vom Wixxer (2007) before, which landed him the part of reading the audio version of the book written from the first-person POV of Hitler.
Film rights were sold, as were foreign license rights. A feature film premiered in Germany on October 8, 2015, starring Oliver Masucci as Hitler, and directed by David Wnendt. As a part of the movie's promotion campaign, Masucci was made to appear as Hitler in several German cities, including the filming locations Brandenburg and Berlin, testing the public's reactions; including at least one appearance close to an NPD rally.
In The Jewish Daily Forward, Gavriel Rosenfeld described the novel as "slapstick", but with a "moral message." However, while acknowledging that Vermes's portrayal of Hitler as human rather than monster is intended to better explain Germany's embrace of Nazism, Rosenfeld also states that the novel risks "glamorizing what it means to condemn": readers can "laugh not merely at Hitler, but also with him."
In Süddeutsche Zeitung, Cornelia Fiedler posited that the book's success may be due less to its literary merits and more to the fact that its protagonist is Adolf Hitler. She stated that focusing on Hitler, "either as a comic figure or as the incarnation of evil", risks obscuring the historical facts. Fiedler described Vermes's assumption that readers would agree that Hitler deserved mockery as "surprisingly naive".
In The Sydney Morning Herald, reviewer Jason Steger interviewed the book's author, who believes that the way Hitler is seen today "is one that hasn't too much to do with the real one". "Most people wouldn't think it possible that if they would have lived back then they would have thought he was in some way attractive too", he said.
- German Comic Novel About Hitler Becomes Bestseller, at Algemeiner Journal; published 7 January 2013; retrieved 16 December, 2013
- Connolly, Kate (5 February 2013). "Adolf Hitler novel tops German bestseller list but divides critics". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- "Germany asks: is it OK to laugh at Hitler?". The Observer. 23 March 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
- Huggler, Justin (21 August 2015). "Hilter gets the Borat treatment with new film helping Germans laugh at past". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- Passlick, Hanna (19 June 2013). "Christoph Maria Herbst liest "Er ist wieder da"" [Christoph Maria Herbst reads "Er is wieder da"]. Neue Westfälische. Bielefeld. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- "Platinum record for Christoph Maria Herbst audiobook of "Er ist wieder da"". 21 April 2014.
- "Er ist wieder da". Filmstarts.de. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Jaafar, Ali (5 November 2014). "Hitler Sightings In Berlin? Constantin Trots Out Look-Alike For ‘Borat’-Esque ‘Look Who's Back’". Deadline. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Hesse, Heiko (25 October 2014). "Wirbel um Auftritt von Hitler-Double". Märkische Allgemeine. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Rosenfeld, Gavriel (19 February 2013). "Rebooting The Führer: Adolf Hitler Brought Back To Life in German Hit Novel". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- Fiedler, Cornelia (9 January 2013). "Ha, ha, Hitler". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Munich. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- Fiedler, Cornelia (9 January 2013). "Ein medialer Wiedergänger" [A media zombie]. Süddeutsche Zeitung. Munich. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- Steger, Jason. "Timur Vermes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
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